Emergency preparedness advice for you and your family
Emergency preparedness is as simple as planning ahead. It's easy and inexpensive for anyone. In a major disaster, it might be several days before vital services are restored. Imagine that you have no electricity, no gas, no water, and no telephone service. Imagine that all the businesses are closed and you are without any kind of emergency services. What will you do until help arrives?
Go over the checklists below with your household to determine how you can take control of an emergency. Consider making two kits. In one, put everything you will need to stay where you are and make it on your own. The other should be a lightweight, smaller version you can take with you if you have to get away.
Check and update your kits when you change your clocks during daylight-saving time. Make sure they are complete and ready to go.
Keep enough supplies in your home to survive on your own for at least three days. If possible, keep these materials in an easily accessible, separate container or special cupboard. You should indicate to your household members that these supplies are for emergencies only.
- One gallon of drinking water per person per day.
- Non-perishable, ready-to-eat canned foods, and a manual can opener.
- Flashlight, battery-operated AM/FM radio, and extra batteries.
- Iodine tablets or one quart of unscented bleach (for disinfecting water ONLY if directed to do so by health officials), and an eyedropper (for adding bleach to water).
- Large plastic bags for waste and sanitation.
- Avoid foods that require a lot of water, refrigeration, or cooking.
- Choose foods your family will eat.
- Don't forget utensils.
Recommended foods include:
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables.
- Canned juices, milk, and soup.
- First-aid kit, medications, and prescriptions.
Every household should consider assembling a "Go Bag" – a collection of items you may need in the event of an evacuation. Each household member's "Go Bag" should be packed in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container, such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. A "Go Bag" should be easily accessible if you have to leave your home in a hurry. Make sure it is ready to go at all times of the year.
- Copies of your important documents in a waterproof and portable container (insurance cards, birth certificates, deeds, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.).
- Extra set of car and house keys.
- Credit and ATM cards, and cash, especially in small denominations. We recommend you keep at least $50-$100 on hand.
- Bottled water and non-perishable food such as energy or granola bars.
- Flashlight, battery-operated AM/FM radio, and extra batteries. You can also buy wind-up radios that do not require batteries at retail stores.
- Medication for at least one week and other essential personal items. Be sure to change medications before they expire. Keep a list of the medications each member of your household takes, their dosages or copies of all your prescription slips, and your doctor's name and phone number.
- First-aid kit.
- Sturdy, comfortable shoes.
- Heavy gloves.
- Warm clothes, a hat, and rain gear.
- Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map.
- Child care supplies or other special care items.
After a major disaster, it is unlikely that emergency response services will be able to immediately respond to everyone's needs. It's important to be prepared to take care of yourself and your family. Plan to be on your own for at least the first 72 hours. The following steps will help you prepare for any emergency:
- Designate an out-of-area contact person.
- Try to select someone that is far enough away to not be affected by the same emergency.
- Provide this person with the names and contact information of the people you want to keep informed of your situation. Instruct family members to call this person and tell them where they are. Long distance phone service is often restored sooner than local service.
- Duplicate important documents and keep copies off-site, either in a safety deposit box or with someone you trust. Documents may include: passport, drivers license, social security card, wills, deeds, financial statements, insurance information, and prescriptions.
- Inventory valuables, in writing and with photographs or video. Keep copies of this information off-site with your other important documents.
- Make a household/family plan. Involve all key people in planning.
- Make your home safe.
- Put together a disaster supply kit. Plan to have supplies for yourself and family for at least three days following a disaster.
- When planning, consider the special needs of children, seniors or people with disabilities, family members that don't speak English and pets.
- Ensure that household members have a copy of your household disaster plan.
- Familiarize yourself with emergency plans for your workplace, school, child's school or daycare, and other relevant institutions.
Talk with your family about the potential disasters that can happen and why it's necessary to prepare for them.
- Involve each member of your family in the planning process. By showing them simple steps that can increase their safety you can help reduce their anxiety about emergencies.
- Make sure everyone knows where to find your disaster supply kit and "Go Bags."
- Have a flashlight and a pair of shoes under everyone's bed in case there is an earthquake during the night. Use a plastic bag tied to the leg of the bed to keep these items from moving during an earthquake.
- Plan where to meet after a disaster if your home becomes unsafe. Choose two places, one just outside your home and one outside your neighborhood in case you are told to evacuate.
- Determine the best escape routes from your home. Try and identify two escape routes.
- Make sure each member knows who your family's out-of-state contact is and instruct them to call this person and tell him/her where they are.
- Locate the gas main and other utilities and make sure family members know when and how to turn them off.
- Practice your evacuation drills – Duck, Cover & Hold; and Stop, Drop & Roll.
- Teach each member of your family how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Create emergency response cards for each of your family members.
- Take into account the special needs of children, seniors or people with disabilities, family members that don't speak English, and pets.
During a disaster, ordinary objects in your home can cause injury or damage. However, there are simple steps you can take to make your home safer. Start by viewing each room with a "disaster eye" and identify potential hazards – bookshelves that could tip over in an earthquake and block exits, heavy objects that could fall and cause injury, or reactive chemicals, such as bleach and ammonia, stored together under a kitchen sink.
- Install smoke detectors on each level of your home and change batteries every six months.
- Move beds away from windows.
- Move mirrors and heavy pictures away from couches or places where people sit.
- Clear hallways and exits for easy evacuation.
- Store heavy items on the lowest shelves.
- Keep ABC-type fire extinguishers and know how and when to use them.
- Strap down your water heater and fit it with a flexible gas supply line.
- Store flammable or highly reactive chemicals securely and separate from each other.
- Secure pictures, wall hangings, and heavy items such as bookcases and file cabinets.
- Know how and when to switch off your utilities.
Include your children in planning for an emergency. Teach them how to get help and what to do in different situations. Practice your family emergency plan with your children and quiz them about preparedness information.
Every child should know:
- Family contact information for use in an emergency.
- Never to touch wires lying on the ground or hanging from poles.
- How to identify the smell of gas. Tell them that if they smell it, they should tell a grown-up or leave the building.
- How and when to call 911.
Information to know about your child's school or day care facility:
- Find out what your child's school does in the event of an emergency and know the school's emergency plans.
- Find out where you can pick up your child during an evacuation.
- Ensure that the school has up-to-date contact information for you and at least one other relative or friend.
- Find out if you can authorize a friend or relative to pick up your children in an emergency if you cannot.
- Pack child care supplies as well as games and small toys in your family's "Go Bag."
- Children are particularly vulnerable to emotional stress after a disaster and may exhibit excessive fear of the dark, crying, fear of being alone, and constant worry. Reassure children that they are safe. Encourage them to talk about their fears, emphasize that they are not responsible for what happened, and comfort them.
Here are some things to consider when putting together your food supplies:
Avoid foods that make you thirsty. Choose salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals, and canned foods with high liquid content.
Stack canned foods, dry mixes, and other stapes that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation. Be sure to include a manual can opener, and take special dietary needs into account.
Water is one of the most important supplies that everyone will need. Store at least one gallon per person per day. A normal person needs at least a half a gallon of water a day for drinking purposes. Children, nursing mothers and sick people will need more than a half gallon per day. Hot weather will also increase the amount of water needed, as could a medical emergency.
It is suggested that commercially bottled water should be purchased and stored unopened in its original container until needed. Observe the expiration or "use by" date. You may want to rotate gallons of water to keep them fresh.
If you prepare your own containers of water, we recommend purchasing food-grade water containers from surplus or camping supply stores. Before filling them with water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse thoroughly so there is no residual soap.
If you choose to use your own storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles – not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacteria to grow when water is stored in them. Cardboard containers also leak and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. Also, do not use glass containers that break easily and are heavy.
If storing water in plastic soda bottles, follow these steps: thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse thoroughly so there is no residual soap. Sanitize the bottles by adding a solution of 1 teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water and swishing the solution around in the bottle so that it touches all surfaces. When finished, thoroughly rinse out the solution with clean water.
Fill the bottle to the top with regular tap water. If the water is treated Village water, you do not need to add anything else to the water to keep it clean. If the water is from a well or other non-chlorinated source, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to the water. Tightly close the container using the original cap. Be careful not to contaminate the cap by touching the inside of it with your finger. Place a date on the outside of the container so that you know when you filled it. Store it in a cool, dark place. Replace the water every six months.
If the Village water supply is interrupted turn off the water meter valves inside your home to protect the water already in your home from contamination if there are reports of broken water or sewage lines, or the Village advises there is a water problem.
To use the water in your pipes, turn on a faucet at the highest level of the house to let air into the plumbing. Water can then be gotten from lower faucets. If needed, you can also use the water in your hot water tank. Shut off the gas or electricity to the heater and open the drain at the bottom of the tank.
Before turning the hot water tank back on, refill the tank before turning on the gas or electricity. If the gas to the house has been turned off, a professional will be needed to turn it back on.
Other safe sources of water include: melted ice cubes or liquids from canned goods such as fruit or vegetables.
Never drink water from a home heating system, such as radiators or boilers, water from water beds, the toilet flush tank, swimming pools or spas. This water could be used for hygiene and cleaning, but not for consumption or for washing dishes.
Treat all water of uncertain quality before drinking it, washing or preparing food, brushing teeth, or making ice. Contaminated water may contain germs that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis.
It is important to have the necessary materials in your disaster supplies kit to treat water should it become necessary. Often the best way to treat water is by using a combination of treatment methods when no safe water is available.
Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom of the container or strain them though coffee filters or layers of clean cloth. There are three suggested methods of treating water: boiling, chlorination, and distillation.
Boiling is the safest way to treat water. In a large pot or kettle, bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute to kill germs. Let the water cool before using.
You can use household liquid bleach to kill germs. Use only regular bleach that contains 5% to 6% sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches, or bleaches with added cleaners. Fresh bleach works better than old bleach as the potency diminishes over time.
Add 16 drops or 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn't have a slight chlorine odor repeat the process and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not have a slight bleach, or chlorine smell, discard it and find another water source.
Both these methods will kill microorganisms, but will not remove contaminants like chemicals or salts.
Distillation will remove germs, as well as heavy metals, salts and most chemicals. Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting only the vapor that condenses. The condensed vapor will not include most impurities.
Fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle of the pot's lid so that the cup is not dangling into the water and boil the water. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
For safety and sanitation:
- Keep food in covered containers once it has been opened.
- Keep cooking and eating utensils clean.
- Keep garbage in closed containers and dispose of outside, burying the garbage if necessary.
- Keep your hands clean by washing them frequently with soap and safe water.
- Use only pre-prepared canned baby formula for infants.
- Discard any food that has come into contact with possibly contaminated water.
- Discard any perishable food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more.
- Discard any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture.
- Do not eat foods from cans that are swollen, dented, or corroded, even though the product may look safe to eat.
- Do not eat any food that looks or smells abnormal, even if the can looks okay.
- Do not use powdered formulas with treated water.
- Do not let garbage accumulate inside, both for fire and sanitation reasons.
Cooking methods in times of emergency include candle warmers, chafing dishes, fondue pots, or a fireplace. Charcoal grills and camp stoves are for outdoor use only.
Commercially canned food can be eaten out of the can without warming. You can heat food in a can by removing the label, thoroughly washing and disinfecting the can (with a solution of one part bleach to ten parts water) and opening the can before heating.